Pelicans Take Flight – Iceland


A group of students flew to Iceland this summer, led by Director of International Education Programs, Mrs. Matlack, and Director of Sustainability, Mr. Dyreson, on a mission to learn about sustainability and Icelandic culture. Iceland, with its unique geographical placement, runs almost entirely on geothermal power; as a result, it is a perfect place to learn about sustainable energy use. The travelers stayed in an ecologically-sustainable village for a third of the program, learning about Iceland’s history and culture, then went on day trips around Iceland.

Students also paid frequent visits to one of Iceland’s iconic natural landmarks: a hot springs heated by underground geothermal power. On the last day of the trip, the group visited the Blue Lagoon and ended their journey reclining and relaxing in the hot spring. Julianna Lee, ’19, wanted to copy a recipe she saw online and tried to poach an egg in the water; despite Julie’s earnest attempts, she “completely failed,” according to Lucy Shao, ’19.

Another famous natural feature of Iceland is its glaciers, which became the focus of the second half of the program. Students went on long hikes and participated in an activity called “Silent Walk” where they trekked alongside glaciers for an hour without conversing; instead, they reflected upon nature and themselves. The transcendent scene and majestic beauty of nature profoundly inspired the group of travelers. “I just took in everything around us and wondered whether the glacier will still be here if I visit again in 30 years,” stated Olivia Tomassetti, ’18. “During this time my mind was inundated mostly by thoughts of my friends back home and the influence they have on who I am. Who would I be without them? Is that someone I like? How can I change myself for the better?” wrote Burke Perrotta, ’19 in his blog.

Students also immersed in the local culture by visiting sites rich with history, living in Solheimar, an eco-village, and meeting awe-inspiring people from all different walks of life. During their trip, the travelers met Hurdor, a local farmer, who gave the travelers a tour of his farm and an opportunity to try working with farm animals themselves. They also met Andrea, a passionate Icelandic writer who aims to raise global awareness on environmental issues through his works, Christine and Hannes, who live in an 800 years old turf house, Katie Wilson, who led them on a tree-planting journey, and many others who devoted their energy and passion to the course of sustainability and community building.

After this cultural and natural immersion, the travelers developed an acute awareness of the larger world. Upon beholding the magnificence of the glaciers, Angela Wang, ’20, realized “the urgency to reconnect with nature and take actions to protect it.”

Mrs. Matlack posed a powerful question and summed up this unforgettable journey. “You’ve been to these places, seen climate change in action, met all these people who are all experts in this field, now what are you going to do?” She said that the school provided the students with a chance to be even more aware of environmental issues, but it is up to the students to think of the question, “what’s next?”